A respected Ashburton agricultural expert backs calls for the Government to stump up with more cash for critical flood protection work.
Ian McKenzie, an Environment Canterbury (ECan) councillor, hopes the Government seriously considers recommendations to commit and co-invest in flood protection.
That’s why he supports a report from Te Uru Kahika – Regional and Unitary Councils Aotearoa for urgent action and investment to face climate change-induced flood hazard risks.
McKenzie said prevention was cheaper than recovery so investing more dollars made sense.
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“[The report] makes a very coherent case that Government reinvestment in flood protection is a very rewarding investment in terms of dollars spent and benefits gained.
“And a much better use of taxpayers’ money preventing disasters than dealing with disasters in their aftermath.
“Flooding is the most frequent, most significant, and most avoidable natural hazard.”
Since the Government ceased funding flood protection in the 1980s, McKenzie said there had been huge shift in land use, especially the spread of urban and lifestyle development across flood plains.
“The owners of these assets, both private and public, have a much higher expectation of protection than farmers for their land.”
Flood schemes would protect not just those living and working near the rivers, but everyone who was affected when roading and other critical infrastructure was damaged.
Council flood protection investment was now not enough, with about $200 million annually poured into such schemes. But that had been estimated to fall short by an estimated $150m per annum.
ECan chairwoman Jenny Hughey said the May 2021 flooding caused about $20m of flood infrastructure damage in Canterbury, with $12m to be borne by ratepayers, and recovery work expected to take up to two years.
“Ashburton was saved from greater damage by a well-designed urban flood protection scheme, but many rural landowners were severely affected,” she said.
Ashburton mayor Neil Brown said climate change was a national issue and ratepayers could not be expected to shoulder all of the bill for critical flood protection work.
“As the May 2021 floods in this district proved, cleaning up and making repairs after a flood takes a toll on finances, and physical and mental wellbeing.
“With extreme weather events escalating, now is the time for central Government to step up. I support this call for them to commit and co-invest in flood protection work.”
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